Thursday, 3 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence. Will the minister inform the House of how the Morrison government is investing in defence and working with our strategic partners to secure our region? And is the minister aware of any threats to the confidence of our regional partners?
I thank the honourable member for her question and I want to commend the work of the Australian Defence Force in keeping our country safe and secure. This government is investing $270 billion into capability over this decade alone. When Labor were in government, they ripped $18 billion out of defence, and it was a very significant blow to the men and women of the Australian Defence Force and they haven't forgotten it.
We are at the moment, as all Australians know, dealing with the reality of coercive statecraft, which is becoming an increasingly serious regional concern. Economic coercion, foreign interference and cyberattacks have all escalated in recent times. Australia is investing, as I say, in defence and in working with our allies and partners to counter the use of coercion in the Indo-Pacific. Our government is making sure that we are putting support into improved situational awareness, into cyber, into special forces, into electronic warfare and information operation capabilities to make sure that we protect our sovereignty and to respond to these and other so-called grey-zone activities.
So it is absolutely essential that we work hand in glove with those partners in the region, and they expect our country to have a united face in response to this threat. So imagine their alarm—imagine our alarm—when you read the article by Phil Coorey in this week's Australian Financial Review, where he spoke about a speech given by the Leader of the Opposition and a stance taken by Senator Wong in relation to these important issues. In Mr Coorey's article, he says:
Senator Wong's comments raised concerns among regional allies about a fracturing of the bipartisanship towards China.
That's what Mr Coorey had to say. It details the Leader of the Opposition's speech where he seeks to undermine our national position in relation to these important matters.
Australians understand that this Leader of the Opposition flip-flops on issues. They understand that the Labor Party has a policy which is not consistent, even in relation to the vaccine rollout. The Leader of the Opposition tells one audience one thing and tells the next audience the opposite. That's what you expect from this Leader of the Opposition. But we would have expected more from the Labor Party in relation to this issue of national importance. The fact is he has failed at the first hurdle.
Mr Khalil interjecting—
The Labor Party when they were in government ripped money out of defence. They do not have the capacity to hold a consistent policy position which is in our national interest, and Australians are seeing through them.